FORT LAUDERDALE -- The surf is pounding outside my door and the sun is rising over a balmy Atlantic. They call it vacation and, for most people, it is a time of rejuvenation when the troubles of our petty little worlds fade away temporarily, if we let them.
It's good to break with the daily routine once in awhile, but as I prepared for this particular trip I was struck by the amount of preparatory work, angst and general confusion that is created simply preparing for a vacation.
When my wife and I would go on vacations she would always start to talk about staying home because she was so stressed out by all of the things that she had to do to go on vacation. If you have pets you have to find someone to take care of them. You have to make sure someone is keeping an eye on your home in case something bad happens.
Then there are all of things that you don't think about until 2 a.m. the night before your vacation, when you bolt out of bed and put that one essential item in your carry-on bag. I have learned to start packing about a week before the vacation because that gives me time to relax a little and realize that I have a lot of time to forget things.
Despite all of the preparation, there is at least one item that I usually forget to bring. That's when I remind myself that it is not the end of the world and that if I forget something essential, there is a good chance I can buy it when I get to my destination.
And don't forget that most of us have become our own travel agents in the era of the Internet. That means hours online looking for the best deals for airfare, hotels and car rentals. It becomes a full-time job for awhile and there is a point at which you just have to give in and tell yourself you have done the best you can. You have to stop thinking that a better deal is out there, if you can only find it.
Perhaps one of the worst things about a vacation, especially if you fly somewhere, is that you lose the good part of two days traveling. Flying is no fun and the only time I wish that I was filthy rich is when I am sitting in the airport listening to ridiculous cell phone conversations waiting for an announcement about a delayed flight. I fantasize about owning a private jet and being able to fly anywhere at any time by myself.
All of this rumination has made me think about the next vacation and how I might be able to avoid all of the stress and not waste so much time and energy on my vacation. I would tell all of my friends that I am going away for a week to some exotic location and that I will talk to them when I get back.
I would then change the message on my answering machine to say, "Leave a message but I may not call you back. If I think I is important, you might hear from me." That would mark the beginning of my vacation at home.
The only preparation I would do for this vacation would be to make a list of all the things I would like to do but never seem to have the time for. I would concentrate on mostly fun and self-enrichment types of things such as reading a book or going rollerblading every day. And I would never answer the phone.
I would not call this a "staycation " because I would try to eliminate, as much as possible, the compulsion to go somewhere. At the conclusion of this new kind of non-vacation I would evaluate the effort for the rejuvenation factor and compare it to a conventional vacation. It certainly would be the cheapest vacation anyone could have.
Richard Davis is a registered nurse and executive director of Vermont Citizens Campaign for Health. He writes from Guilford and welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.